IRB Hall of Fame – Induction No.87 – James Thomson Greenwood (Scotland, British & Irish Lions, Barbarians, RAF, Eastern Counties, Harlequins, Dunfermline & Perthshire Academicals) 1928-2010

Personal details 

– Born: 2 December, 1928 in Dunfermline, Scotland 
– Died: 13 September, 2010 
– Family: Survived by his wife, Margot
– Education: Dunfermline High School, Edinburgh University (where he read English)

Career milestones

– A pacy and skilful number 8 from the Dunfermline Rugby Football Club, Greenwood was first capped by Scotland as a 24-year-old student in 1952. Scotland named Greenwood as one of eight debutants for the opening game of that season’s Five Nations Championship against France, which ended in a 13-11 defeat. 

– He was dropped and only recalled, at number 8 and as captain, in 1955, for the 16th and penultimate match of Scotland’s sorry run of 17 consecutive defeats. He was largely an automatic choice thereafter, playing in 19 of the next 20 matches: a run of games that coincided with an upturn in Scotland’s fortunes. 

– He won 20 caps in total for Scotland, nine as captain, until his retirement in 1959. He scored two tries for Scotland

– Greenwood was selected for the 1955 British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa. While on tour he again played at flanker with spectacular success, scoring in the first and last match of a drawn series. The series may have ended all-square at 2-2, but the Lions won plenty of admirers for their attacking style of play.

– Greenwood was in contention for a place on the next Lions tour in 1959 but a broken collarbone, while playing against Ireland, forced him to retire at the age of 31.

– Greenwood’s club rugby was limited to playing for his native Dunfermline and later Perthshire Academicals, with a spell at Harlequins in between while on National Service with the RAF.

– He enjoyed a rich representative career outside of international rugby, playing for the RAF, Eastern Counties and the Barbarians. Fittingly, for a player who epitomised the Barbarian spirit with his desire to play an all-encompassing style of game, Greenwood pulled on the famous black and white hooped jersey 18 times. He also featured in the Ireland-Scotland v England-Wales 1959 Twickenham Jubilee match. 


– He held posts at Glenalmond College in Perth, Cheltenham College and Tiffin School, Kingston upon Thames before joining the staff at Loughborough University in 1968.

– At Loughborough, Greenwood lectured English and coached the First XV. Future England stars such as Fran Cotton, Sir Clive Woodward and Andy Robinson all came under his tuition.

– While at Loughborough, Greenwood wrote and published Total Rugby, the best-known of his many titles and still regarded as rugby’s coaching bible to this day. It was re-published in 1978, 1985, 1992, 1997 and 2003 due to global demand.

– Hugely respected around the world, on the back of Total Rugby being published, Greenwood helped set up coaching structures on visiting Argentina, Japan, USA and Canada. His two years at the University of Tsukuba in Japan inspired his next classic text, Think Rugby

– Head coach of the Great Britain and England women’s rugby team. 

– First rugby coach to be elected into the National Coaching Foundation’s inaugural Hall of Fame, winning the prestigious Geoffrey Dyson award for his outstanding contribution.

What he said

“The rugby I’m concerned with as a coach is rugby at its most exciting – the 15-man handling game, in which every player is encouraged to show what we can do as an attacker, defender and supporting players, and in which the overall style of play gives him a chance to do so.”

"I was a teacher rather than a coach. I tried to get people thinking. I wanted each player to be his own coach, to encourage the player to expand their awareness, to find truth wherever it lay. All coaching is one-to-one: there's a place for the motivational speech, but it's far more effective to talk to people individually."

What they said

Ian Malin, paying tribute in The Guardian, wrote: "Scotland has given the world some of the sport’s great innovators and thinkers. Ian McGeechan is one and Greenwood, less heralded than the man whose name became synonymous with the Lions, was another.” 

Rugby World Cup 2003-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward on how Greenwood influenced him while at Loughborough University: “Basically I went to Loughborough for one reason, to play my best rugby, and for one man, Jim Greenwood. If I was going to play for England it made sense to go where the best coach was, Jim’s book Total Rugby is the only rugby coaching book I’ve ever read, it was way ahead of its time.” >

Former England and Scotland head coach Andy Robinson pays his respects: “I was lectured by Jim. He was fantastic. A great man who was so far ahead of his time as a coach it was incredible.” 

Glasgow coach and former Scotland international Gregor Townsend said: “I was never fortunate enough to meet him, but I was aware of Jim’s reputation throughout my career and have consulted his book Think Rugby, which provides a great outline of the game as well as a tactical insight into how it can be played. It has been updated so many times because it is still just as relevant as when it was first written. It is seen as the seminal work on what the game is about.”